Air Force dad returns from Iraq, surprises son at school

An emotional reunion at Corral Drive Elementary School.

RAPID CITY, S.D. – It was a homecoming six months in the making.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Gary Day returned after an exhausting six-month deployment to Iraq and two-day journey home.

He wanted to surprise his third-grade son as soon as he arrived in Rapid City.

After spending so much time away from his wife and two sons, even the least emotional of men can’t help but be moved by the sight of loved ones.

“I’m not a very emotional guy, but for some reason when it comes to my family, I do get a little emotional here and there,” Day said. “Just seeing him for the first time in six months, I got a little teary.”

Day is but one of thousands of American servicemen and women who are deployed away from their families each year. They all have their own way to handle frustrating emotions.

“I do my daily duties, and then I like to work out,” Day said. “I also like to run, so that’s what I usually use as my coping mechanism.”

And these men and women all work together as a kind of support group when the homesickness from being overseas becomes overwhelming for any of them.

“When we see a servicemember letting their emotions get the best of them, that’s when we usually talk to them and have conversation,” Day said. “What’s the good things? What do you miss? What are the things you’re going to love when you go back? It helps them get it off their chest.”

Master Sgt. Day embraces his son, Ethan, at school. Day returned from a 6-month deployment in Iraq Wednesday and wanted to surprise Ethan. Photo Date: Oct. 10, 2018.For the families that remain stateside, it isn’t easy either.

“It’s pretty sad that they go over there and you don’t get to see them for a long time,” said Ethan, Day’s son.

But the stateside families feel the same overwhelming emotions when their military moms and dads come home.

“I was really excited that he came here,” Ethan said.

And Ethan understands that our military relatives deploy overseas to do important work. “It’s hard work because they protect us.” 

Day already has orders to deploy to Germany in December. This time, though, his family will go with him.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News